Outstanding. That is the verdict of Ofsted inspectors on the welfare, training and support Scotland’s largest military base provides for the submarines of tomorrow.
HM Naval Base Clyde – home of the Royal Navy’s Submarine Flotilla – was singled out for praise by Amanda Spielman, Ofsted’s Chief Inspector, following visits by her teams to more than 20 military training establishments across the Services.
Experts visited single-Service bases such as Clyde and the Royal Marines’ Commando Training Centre at Lympstone, near Exeter.
They also assessed combined training centres such as the Defence School of Policing (at the former HMS Dryad site in Southwick near Portsmouth), and reservist units HMS Scotia (Rosyth) and King Alfred (Portsmouth), plus Southampton and Oxford University Royal Naval Units.
They assessed each base or unit on the effectiveness and quality of welfare and duty of care support staff offer trainees, as well as how effective leadership is in making improvements.
At HM Naval Base Clyde, the Ofsted team focused on the Submarine School – where trainees start their professional training ready to join a nuclear-powered boat.
The inspectors found the school’s instructors went beyond ‘merely’ supplying the Fleet with men and women highly trained to meet the demands of the Silent Service, doing their utmost to ensure trainees felt at home at Faslane or sorted out transport to and from the base – particularly important given its somewhat isolated location.
Ofsted says the combination of quality training and care/welfare support has paid off as “trainees worked hard, supported one another well and were ﬁercely proud of their role as submariners” and joined front-line boats having received “excellent training for the rigours of their role ahead.”
The inspectors spent time with both Royal Marines young officers and recruits at the Commando Training Centre in Lympstone.
They rated the quality of welfare and care arrangements as ‘outstanding’, with particular care shown to recruits under 18, while the specialist rehabilitation unit, Hunter Company, offers ‘excellent support’ to help injured recruits resume their training.
And given the relatively high percentage of recruits who do not complete the 32-week/15 month ranks/officer course, Ofsted were impressed by help and guidance given to those returning to civvy street – having made every effort to persuade them to remain in the military.
The inspectors identified areas for improvement – more and better food options, improved laundry facilities – and better education of would-be officers about the demands of training before they arrive at Lympstone.
“We are delighted that the efforts made by instructors and trainers into the care and welfare of our trainees has been recognised by Ofsted, particularly at Faslane and Lympstone,” said Colonel Ade Morley, Commandant of the Training Management Group.
“The Royal Navy regards itself as a tight-knit family – especially true of the Submarine Service and the Royal Marines – something which is reﬂected by the support and assistance recruits receive throughout their training, and the pride and sense of achievement they feel when they pass out.
“The report has identiﬁed areas for improvement – and we are addressing these, although many of them sit outside our direct control, because we are committed to improving them to ensure the ‘lived experience’ for trainees matches their expectations.”
Southampton’s URNU gives undergraduates a solid grounding in life – whether they subsequently choose to join the RN or not – combining good training with excellent opportunities to work with the Navy all around the world.
It is a similar case at Oxford, with welfare support impressing the inspection team while efforts by the unit’s staff had improved recruitment, retention and the training environment.
Welfare support at Portsmouth-based reservist unit HMS King Alfred was found to be good – but trainees often struggled getting their hands on the right kit due to ‘excessive’ bureaucracy.
Ofsted would like to see improved information for reserve trainees arriving at HMS Scotia – especially information about fitness levels demanded of the Service – and better provision of courses and training to spare personnel having to make the lengthy journey to southern England.
The full report can be here.
Navy News. (2020) ‘Outstanding’ Submarine Support. Navy News. November 2020, pp.26-27.